You’ve probably heard of the crying it out method of sleep training for babies.  

There are two versions:

  1. The ‘extinction’ method - parents are instructed to leave their babies alone at bedtime, completely ignoring their cries. These babies literally cry it out until they have absolutely nothing left.

  2. The ‘graduated extinction’ method —also known as controlled crying. are instructed to leave their babies alone at sleep time. They alternate between attending and not attending during crying spells, at increasingly longer intervals.

 

It is the issue that has long divided parenting experts: when your baby starts to cry, should you go to him immediately or should you leave him to ‘cry it out’? Well, I feel very strongly about this (are you surprised?!) and the answer is DON’T DO CRY IT OUT. I don’t like leaving a baby to cry and would never condone it. Here’s why:

1. Young babies do not have the mental ability to ‘learn’ to go to sleep at the right time, so leaving them to cry in order to ‘teach’ them is pointless.

2. A baby who is left crying for long enough will eventually stop, not because he has learnt to go to sleep happily alone, but because he is totally exhausted and has despaired of getting help.

3. Crying is the main way a baby can signal that he is uncomfortable or distressed. Ignoring these cries goes against every parents’ instincts and can negatively affect the baby/parent bond. 

4. What if the crying is about something other than sleeping – say a filled nappy or sickness? If you always leave your baby to cry, you might miss these important events. 

5. Crying is hard work. It stimulates the production of cortisol which is a stress hormone. I’m sure that no parent would knowingly want to subject their baby to prolonged stress. 

6. Too much cortisol caused by long continued crying can damage the baby’s brain which reduces their capacity to learn. 

7. Even when your baby doesn’t cry, if they have been through the Cry It Out method, their stress levels will increase every time they go to bed because they will association of bedtime with being left to cry alone. The cortisol hormone will continue to affect their development long after you have stopped using this technique. 

8. Why risk it? You can’t spoil a baby within their first year of life because they don’t possess the ability to manipulate their surroundings. They can only communicate their physical and emotional needs. Remember that they are crying as this is the only way they can get your attention if they need something…at this early stage, they are not playing games; they don’t know how to. 

8. Why risk it? You can’t spoil a baby within their first year of life because they don’t possess the ability to manipulate their surroundings. They can only communicate their physical and emotional needs. Remember that they are crying as this is the only way they can get your attention if they need something…at this early stage, they are not playing games; they don’t know how to. 

This is the Wonder Weeks doctor, Dr. Frans with his take on crying it out:

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